US and Russia discuss Biden-Putin summit as tension rises over Ukraine and Navalny

Russian troop build-up on Ukrainian border continues despite US and European requests to withdraw

FILE - In this March 10, 2011, file photo, then-Vice President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia. Hit by a barrage of new sanctions from the Biden administration, the Kremlin is carefully weighing its response in a tense showdown with the United States. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

The US and Russian governments are in talks to host the first presidential summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

This comes as tension continues to rise over the situation in Ukraine and the health of jailed dissident Alexei Navalny.

The White House said on Monday that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had spoken with Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, to discuss hosting a bilateral presidential summit.

"Mr Sullivan and Secretary Patrushev discussed the prospect of a presidential summit between the United States and Russia and agreed to continue to stay in touch," National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said.

They also went over a number of issues "in the bilateral relationship, as well as regional and global matters of concern".

News of the potential summit comes as pressure builds on multiple fronts between the White House and the Kremlin.

On Sunday, Mr Sullivan warned Russia of “consequences” if Mr Navalny, who is on hunger strike, were to die in prison.

Mr Sullivan told CNN that Russia would be held accountable for its actions.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Mr Sullivan said.

Mr Navalny has been on hunger strike since March 31. His lawyers have said his health is quickly deteriorating and that he could die “in days".

On Monday, Mr Navalny was transferred to a prison hospital for monitoring.

Mass protests have been called for by his supporters across Russia to demand he receives proper clinical care in prison.

Mr Biden had described Mr Navalny's medical treatment in prison as "totally unfair and totally inappropriate".

In addition to Mr Navalny, the US and Russia have been entangled in a series of policy escalations over Ukraine, as well as recent sanctions.

On Monday, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell estimated that 150,000 Russian troops have amassed near Ukraine's border.

In a corrected version of the transcript, the EU's press office amended Mr Borrell's figure to 100,000 figure. "The Russian military build-up at the Ukrainian border is very concerning. There are more than 100,000* Russian troops amassing at the Ukrainian borders and in Crimea. The risk of further escalation is evident," the corrected transcript of Mr Borrell's comments said.

“It is the highest military deployment of the Russian Army on the Ukrainian border ever.

"It’s clear that it’s a matter of concern when you deploy a lot of troops … a spark can jump here or there,” Mr Borell said.

The build-up has continued despite US and European requests for Moscow to withdraw its troops from the border.

Mr Biden said that in a call to Mr Putin last week, he had "expressed concern about Russia's military build-up on Ukraine's border" and "strongly urged him to refrain from any military action".

The US expelled 10 Russian diplomats last week and imposed sanctions on entities and individuals for alleged US election interference and the occupation of Crimea.

Russia responded with plans to expel 10 US diplomats and impose sanctions on eight US officials.

A Biden-Putin summit would primarily aim at de-escalating tension and avoiding further sanctions.

The Russian president has been invited to Thursday's global virtual climate summit hosted by Mr Biden.

The Kremlin said on Monday that Mr Putin is planning to address the US-hosted summit on Thursday.

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